UMN sexual assault prevention training updated for older students

Incoming students completed the online training this past month.

Austen Macalus

The University of Minnesota recently updated its online sexual assault prevention training, tailoring it to adult-learners and graduate students.

The revamped training, which is part of the University’s larger efforts to curb sexual assault, was updated in time for this year’s incoming class. 

The portal is split into three separate modules for undergraduates, graduate students and adult-learners — who are categorized as undergraduate students over 25 years old. 

“The course content has been updated to better reflect the experience of different student populations,” said Julie Sanem, director of health promotion at Boynton Health. Boynton Health administers the program. 

New students are required to take the training, which is hosted by the EVERFI online portal, before the first day of classes. As of Monday morning, about 85 percent of undergraduate, 60 percent of graduate and 58 percent of adult-learner students had completed the training.

Different groups of students typically face different challenges when it comes to personal relationships, said John Finnegan, dean of the School of Public Health.

Graduate students are usually closer to faculty members and advisers, whereas undergraduate students may have more peer-to-peer interactions, he said.  

“The University is such an interesting place because it has such a diversity of people at different phases of their lives,” said Finnegan, also the co-chair of the President’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct. “We’re dealing with a whole variety of audiences,” he said

EVERFI’s past modules, known as Haven and Haven Plus, were made for undergraduate and graduate students respectively. 

The updated training better reflects differences between student populations, Sanem said.

For example, in a section featuring real-life scenarios, adult-learners are placed in a networking event, while undergraduates are placed in a large-party situation, Sanem said.

Sara Parke, an incoming graduate student studying public policy, said she thought the training was properly catered to the average graduate student.

“The University is the only [school I’ve been to] that’s had any type of training mandatory for students to take,” she said. 

Although Shanti Penprase, a graduate student studying earth science, already knew most of the information included in the training, she said she still found the training helpful.

“For me, most of it was a refresher,” Penprase said. “I think it’s good they’re making an effort to have the whole entering graduate student cohort take [some training],” she said.

Alexander Johnson, who is studying urban and regional planning at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said he appreciated that the training touched on different kinds of relationships, such as being a teacher’s assistant. 

“There’s a slightly different power dynamic with being a grad student,” Johnson said. 

Although EVERFI created the new modules, Boynton customized aspects of the training, Sanem said. It added the University’s sexual misconduct policy, campus resources and additional survey questions to gather data about University students, she said. 

Additionally, Boynton rolled out an expanded communications plan to remind students to complete the training, Sanem said, which included putting notifications on the MyU portal.

“This is a very busy time of the year to try and reach students,” Sanem said. 

Students will take the second part of the training — a series of follow-up survey questions — after a 45-day break. 

The University began administering sexual assault prevention training in 2013,  two years before the state legislature required colleges to provide sexual assault training to all new students.

Last year, the University also required all faculty and staff to complete sexual misconduct training, which was completed over the summer.

But University officials say online training on its own is not enough to end sexual assault. 

“Let me be clear that an online program like this is not the only thing that we’re doing,” said Finnegan. “It’s really meant to be a starting point, not an ending point.” 

Matthew Rundle, an incoming graduate student in the School of Public Healh, echoed Finnegan’s view. 

“I thought [the training] was a really good step in the right direction,” Rundle said.